Imagine, just for a moment, 100 years from now, historians of the distant future watching images of last month's inaugural ceremonies and reading President Obama's inaugural address.
What significance will they attach to this historic moment in American history? What evidence will they find that explains the tears of joy and adulation expressed during the ceremony? For answers, one has only to look through the pages of African-American history. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, distinguished author, editor, publisher and founder of Black History Month, developed an important philosophy of history.
History, he insisted, was not the mere gathering of facts. The object of historical study is to arrive at a reasonable interpretation of the facts. History is more than political and military records of peoples and nations. It must include some description of the social conditions of the period being studied. He believed that blacks should know their past in order to participate intelligently in the affairs in our country. He strongly believed that black history - which others have tried so diligently to erase - is a firm foundation for young black Americans to build on in order to become productive citizens of our society.
"Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history."
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Contrary to popular belief, African-American history is not one-dimensional. On one hand, it is filled with records of the foulest crimes made legal by men in whom power was vested. On the other hand, records clearly demonstrate the goodwill of the American people and the efforts put forth by whites in the North and South to help the Negro fully integrate into a free society.
Of course, there's much history to be mined right here in Fort Mill. In the final installment of this two-part series, you will find an incredible slice of South Carolina, American, and black history culled from the pages of Lewis B. Glover's hand written diary. Glover, just an average citizen of the town, began his entries on July 27, 1897, and continued until June 25, 1899.
In the meantime, let's examine what the times held for African-Americans during that period. The growing process that transformed the lowly Americanized African into a productive American citizen had been arduous. By the end of the 19th century, after 35 dark and brutal years, black people in America began to see the light of a new day. In the late 1800s, average citizens, politicians and scholars committed themselves to the ongoing struggle to improve the conditions of the "Negro."
Several goodhearted and well intended theologians added their commentaries as well by offering a spiritual outlook on the matter. The authors of several rare books published in the mid 1800s seemed to share the central notion that both good and evil resides in the heart of every man. These books are not quick reads, but time spent studying them is well worth it. One can gain a purer understanding of the complexities of relationships between blacks and whites in the years shortly after The War of Emancipation up through the present day.
These books include: "Our Brother in Black: His Freedom and His Future (published in 1881), by Atticus G. Haygood, D.D.; "The Tragedy of The Negro In America" (published in 1897) by Peter Thomas Stanford, D.D.; and several books by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, including "The Negro Prior to 1861" 1915).
For more than thirty years after The War of Emancipation the number of unlawful lynchings in the south escalated three fold. Between 1865 and 1900 an average of one lynching occurred every other day. Blacks were lynched for almost any reason and in numerous cases, for no reason at all. During this same period, the "Negro Question" (the fate of freed slaves) became a major debated topic in the halls of Congress and in state legislatures throughout the South.
By the early 20th century, the Negro had paid a dear price for his freedom. In turn, he invested his gains into a young nation that ultimately became the most prosperous nation in the world. Despite all the high intelligence and will to succeed, black people could not have made this journey alone.
Much credit goes to the Christian and educational institutions that helped the Negro attain a complete victory over his obstacles. Christian leaders throughout the South made significant contributions to the success of blacks in their struggles.
Perhaps it is fitting that during this Black History celebration we give proper credit to one white brother, Dr. Haygood, who contributed so much to the education of the African-American people.
Dr. Haygood, an old Confederate Officer and Chaplin, rose to national prominence around 1880 with a Thanksgiving speech and with several of his books extolling the contributions of African Americans since emancipation. He served as president of Emory College in Oxford, Ga. from 1875 until 1884.
He was very instrumental in raising funds to support many of our Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
One highly esteemed Black Pastor of an all white English church expressed similar views of the transition from slave to productive America citizen. Peter Thomas Stanford, D.D., (known as England's "Colored Preacher") stated in his book "The Tragedy of The Negro In America" (published in 1897):
"Thirty years have wrought mighty changes for the South, but the greatest wonder is the progress of the Negro. The freedom of the Negro gave him a new era, and opened doors of opportunity for his material, intellectual and spiritual advancement. The distance between the slave and the freeman is world-wide. His freedom has improved his condition and increased the wealth and prosperity of the South. Thirty years is a short period in the life of a race, and yet it is sufficient to note its progress.
Today, America has hindsight in her favor, but most importantly, she has opportunities to interpret lessons of the past in the light of a new day.
Excerpts from Lewis B. Glover's hand written diary.:
"There was to be two Negro's hung in Yorkville (York, SC) today for the murder of Ben Gore, but Govener Elebee reprieved them to Jan. 6, 1899 ...... This the day for two Negro's to be hung in Yorkville SC for murdering Ben Gore."
"Charley Eason of Pineville shot a Negro yesterday evening but did not kill him."